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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tron: Legacy (2010)

Overall verdict: 9/10

The Good: imaginative production design, clear concise directing, charismatic acting by most of the cast, unique soundtrack, filled with homages and references, more underlying complex themes than a typical disney movie, satisfactory emotional core, originally filmed in 3D

The Bad: mediocre acting from main protagonist, truncated first act might be difficult to follow,

Current Availability Status: Coming to video soon

In 1982, "Tron" gave the world a vision of a world unlike any other. A world within a computer where programs exist as actual living beings who race along freeway style circuits. A world that defied human imagination and piqued the obsession of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), computer programmer extraordinaire. In an opening narration, Flynn, who is now the head of the ENCOM company, tells of his adventures in the original Tron movie and his motivations for using the computer world which he calls "the Grid" to benefit mankind.

With this little bit of exposition, barely sufficient to bring newcomers to the Tron franchise "up to speed", Kevin Flynn disappears one day, leaving his son, Sam, who grows into a rebellious young man. Sure he is the major shareholder of ENCOM, but he'd rather play cyber pranks on the greedy ENCOM CEO and outrun the Cops on his bike than sit in board meetings. He is a punk slacker in every way, and smart mouthed to boot, living each day with no discernible purpose until he is approached by his father's long time friend over a mysterious "page" from his father's old office in an arcade. Yes a "page", from a pager. OLD school tech. Sam discovers a supercomputer but an accident lands him mysteriously transported into the Grid which is ruled over by the tyrannical (and equally smart mouthed) "Clu" who bears a striking resemblance to Sam's father. NOW the movie begins in earnest with Sam fighting his way through gladiatorial combat, making a daring escape during a "lightcycle" death race and meeting new allies while searching for his father. Hidden secrets will be revealed and expect some surprising twists in this otherworldly digital domain of peril and adventure!

And what a world it is! Carrying on the legacy of its predecessor, Tron Legacy once again presents imaginative production design coupled with cutting edge computer imaging. It is worth watching purely for its visuals, 3D or otherwise. Newcomer director Joseph Kosinski peppers his action with wide angles and sweeping cinematography, a fresh feel indeed from the frequent close-ups and "shakey cam" used by his other more "experienced" compatriots. Breathing life into the Grid is the similarly surreal soundtrack by "Daft Punk". It is mixture of electronic and orchestral music that serves to highlight the "synthetic" aspect of the Grid world while paying homage to the electronic synthesizer tunes used in the original Tron movie. The masterfully composed score blends eerie with Epic in the action scenes while toning down into warmer traditional tunes in the more emotional scenes. Like the directing style, the electronic soundtrack is a welcome change from the typical percussion and bass heavy action movie music.

Without putting up spoilers, one has to admit that the story works on multiple levels for both newcomers and sci/fi fanatics alike. For example When Sam first enters the Grid, it is one big tribute to classic spaceman stories like Flash Gordon. (Stranger lands on a strange world ruled by a tyrant, he is captured, made to fight as a gladiator, breaks out and joins the resistance). It might be a tad hard to follow at first as many concepts might be lost on viewers without some smidgen of tech savvy-ness or those not quick enough to get the little narrative homages. A lot happens in little time but once things slow down near the middle, the story has room to breathe. Under all the light and flashy spectacle is a very down to earth father/son tale that anyone can relate to. Between the lines lies an almost biblical parable relating to mankind's rejection of God in his quest for his own perfect Godhood. Present too is a running theme about how well intentioned legacies left to the wrong people become corrupted by those it was left to. Rather complex for a Disney movie to incorporate such themes.

One little byte to pick with this film would be the acting. Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn as well as the villain program Clu and does a wonderful job of just becoming his character. He exudes a charisma and charm that his son, Sam, seems to lack. It is very ironic that the digital characters like Olivia Wilde's Quorra and Michael Sheen's Castor seem so much more "alive" and real than Garret Headlund's snarky Sam.

Needless to say, Tron: Legacy is epic storytelling that challenges the boundaries of imagination. It is a fun and exciting ride with a satisfactory emotional center. The more learned viewers would be happy to dig into the underlying themes that can be easily related somewhat to ontology and even biblical theology, while the the rest of you can just sit back and enjoy the visual spectacle and human father/son drama. Unlike stuff like Inception or the Matrix, tron Legacy does not force feed you the complex stuff, thus making it very accessible to viewers of all ages.

With an animated series in the works (as of writing this review) here's hoping that the legacy of the Tron lives long for ages to come and goes from being just a Cult classic to a full fledged sci/fi epic franchise.

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Go For it: If you were a fan of the original "Tron" or would like to witness one of the best and most imaginative disney action movies to date
Avoid it: if you just don't like this genre of movies and would prefer some romance slop anyday.

Entertainment: A
Story: B+
Acting: A-
Characters: B+
Music: A
Replay value: A
"Brains": A-

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